After joining the company in 1972 as a corporate economist, he has held numerous management positions.
Owens was named chief economist of Caterpillar Overseas S.A. in Geneva, Switzerland in 1975. From 1980 until 1987 he held managerial positions in Peoria in the Accounting and Product Source Planning Departments. In 1987 he became managing director of P.T. Natra Raya, Caterpillar's joint venture in Indonesia. He held that position until 1990, when he was elected a corporate vice president and named president of Solar Turbines Incorporated, a Caterpillar subsidiary in San Diego. In 1993 he came to Peoria as vice president and chief financial officer with administrative responsibility for the Corporate Services Division.
In 1995, Owens was named a group president and member of Caterpillar’s Executive Office. Over the next nine years as a group president, Owens was at various times responsible for 13 of the company’s 25 divisions. In December 2003, the Caterpillar Board of Directors named Owens vice chairman and appointed him chairman and chief executive officer effective February 1, 2004.
Owens, a native of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, graduated from North Carolina State University, in 1973 with a Ph.D. in economics.
He is a director of the Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and a director of FM Global Insurance Company in Rhode Island. Owens is a member of The Business Roundtable in Washington, DC, and the Global Advisory Council to The Conference Board in New York. He is also a member of the Community Advisory Board of Saint Francis Medical Center and the Civic Federation Board in Peoria.